Volume 8, Issue 2, 2017
Special Issue on Falun Gong and the Media
ZengYi Zhang, BiaoWen Huang, XiaoDan Li
A Frame Analysis of Newspaper Reports about Cults in English
A Case Study of The New York Times
“Cults” (aka “sects”; new religious movements) constitute a regular topic for contemporary journalists to write about. After briefly surveying relevant publications in academic periodicals, the present article examines the content of a variety of different newspapers, both in terms of the length and the frequency of their articles on cults. We then turn our focus on the New York Times, and its contrasting treatments of the Branch Davidians and Falun Gong. NYT articles on the Branch Davidians suggest that the group’s teachings are mere personal declarations or examples of religious fanaticism, and that the Davidian leadership is manipulative and abusive to its members. Despite the obvious similarities between the two groups, Falun Gong, in sharp contrast, is portrayed as being a mixture of traditional Buddhism, Taoism, and Chinese qigong practices, which is currently being persecuted in the People’s Republic of China.